Depth Agency

Agency is understanding what you’re doing in the game. It is the converse of the CYOA trick of asking you to make a choice where the ramifications of the choice are unforeseeable.

You *must* have agency around the plot-controlling actions of your game. Even if you offer your player no *choice*, the player should understand what he is doing. And if you are creating a game in which the character has no agency, you need to signal that clearly, for example by having the character comment on it.

Now, that’s basic agency. There’s another kind of agency possible, which I’m calling ‘depth agency.’ This is conspicuous agency given over something that does not control the game flow.

In this case, the player is basically given a big red herring that he has agency over. He can control the red herring and make it do various different, interesting things. But the red herring has no impact on the game.

So, it’s not a red herring in that it’s meant to distract the player from the crucial focus of the game. Rather, it’s an artistic red herring, meant to broaden out the scope of the game.

In effect, in building depth agency in to your game, you are creating a toy. But you don’t want to make it obvious that it has no effect on the game. The advantage of this is simply that it creates depth: just as the text descriptions go beyond what is strictly necessary to lead the player through the game because it creates depth.

Published on March 20, 2010 at 11:43 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. You get a lot of respect from me for writing these helpful arictles.

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